By  on April 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — House Democrats were confident they would have the votes to pass emergency war funding legislation on Wednesday night that also contains a provision that would raise the federal hourly minimum wage for the first time in 10 years to $7.25 from $5.15.

However, the wage hike's fate is uncertain because the $124.2 billion measure faces a veto from President Bush. It contains deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, beginning as early as July, which Bush fiercely opposes. And Democrats do not have the two-thirds vote necessary to override a veto.

House and Senate negotiators already agreed on war funding legislation and the House and Senate have passed a minimum wage increase twice this year. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) reached a compromise on business tax relief totaling $4.84 billion over 10 years tied to the minimum wage increase for inclusion in the war funding bill.

Most industry veterans expect Democrats to try again to push through a separate tax-wage package in the event of a presidential war funding veto.

"It's past time to get a pay increase on the ground for America's minimum wage workers," Baucus said in a statement. "Chairman Rangel and I worked together to craft a targeted, fiscally responsible package of small business tax incentives that can help minimum wage legislation move through both chambers and into law."

Rangel said, "We have reached a final resolution — and I mean final — on a package of small business tax credits that will enable us to pass the first increase in the federal minimum wage in nearly a decade."

However, top Republicans on the same House and Senate committees oppose the new compromise on the tax package.

"The point of this package was to give tax relief to small businesses to counteract the effects of the minimum wage increase and otherwise boost the economy," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), said in a statement. "This package is stripped of a lot of meaningful tax relief."

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